Free NFL Picks: Best Monday Night Football Totals Play

Sterling Xie

Monday, November 2, 2015 1:27 PM UTC

Monday, Nov. 2, 2015 1:27 PM UTC

The final game of Week 8 features a pair of teams headed in distinctly different directions. Panthers host Colts for a Monday Night Football clash. Review the NFL odds and free NFL pick inside.

Carolina Panthers
Seeing the Panthers laying 5.5 points isn't necessarily a surprise, nor does it provide particularly strong value to bettors. However, the same does not hold true for the over-under line, which has since climbed to 47 after opening at a more reasonable 45.5 on the NFL odds board. Given the stylistic tendencies of Carolina's offense, and the struggles Indianapolis has faced behind an injury-burdened Andrew Luck, it's difficult to imagine the over winning out here.

For one, 47 points is far higher than any over-under line the Panthers have seen thus far this season. Though Carolina has technically hit the over in four of its six games, they've also never faced anything higher than a 43.5 total in any single game yet this season. That game came last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, and because of Carolina's stifling defense and Cam Newton's turnover-plagued performance, the teams combined for 43 points in the Panthers' 27-16 win, giving the under bet a narrow victory.

In fact, over the past three seasons, Carolina has almost exclusively played low-scoring games at Bank of America Field. In home games since 2013, the Panthers have faced an over-under line of 47 points or higher just twice. Both those games came last season against the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, and neither game hit the over. This pregame line is almost unprecedented in recent Panthers history—in fact, of those 19 Carolina home games since 2013, the Panthers and their opponents have combined to eclipse 47 points just four times in total.


Indianapolis Colts
For a game in Charlotte to reach the over, the opponent needs to possess an efficient, quick-strike offense. That description used to fit the Colts, but with Luck's shoulder injury clearly hampering the preseason MVP favorite, Indy's offense has been a shell of the unit that ran the most plays in the league and ranked sixth in total scoring last season. According to Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, the Colts are currently ranked 20th in overall offense, which would be the unit's lowest offensive ranking of the Luck era. In two games since Luck's return from his shoulder injury, the Colts have gone long stretches against the Patriots and Saints appearing totally incompetent, with much of their offensive outputs in those games coming in futile last-ditch comeback attempts.

It's unlikely we'll see Luck regain his groove this week, as the Panthers defense ranks second against the pass by DVOA. A breakout season from budding superstar cornerback Josh Norman gives Carolina a physical man-to-man presence capable of matching up against T.Y. Hilton, who accounted for the majority of Indy's offensive production last week with a pair of long touchdown receptions. Apart from a puzzling game against Saints backup Luke McCown, the Panthers have hardly bent this season, holding every passer besides McCown below 300 yards and 7.3 yards per pass attempt.

The one X-factor, which could push this line to the over, is pace. Though Carolina has a reputation as a slow-grinding ground-bound offense, the Panthers actually run plays at a surprisingly fast rate. According to FO, Carolina has the fourth-fastest offense in neutral game situations (i.e, when the time and score isn't affecting a team's pace). The Colts, who have always been a fast offense under Luck, rank sixth in the category.  At the very least, there should be plenty of possessions, and thus opportunity, for the score to trickle its way to the line of 47.


Odds Overview
However, efficiency is neither team's forte, which should provide some comfort to bettors taking the under. Both rank 20th or worse in plays per drive and 19th or worse in time of possession per drive. So while this game figures to be on the high end in terms of total possessions, that doesn't need to necessarily translate into quick scoring drives either.

A game with a combined score into the 50s would likely require a huge bounceback from Luck or a huge game on the ground from Newton and Jonathan Stewart. Neither of those scenarios is necessarily impossible, but given the trajectories of both teams this season, the over-under line feels a few points too high for our NFL picks.

Free NFL pick: Under 47 at Bovada

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